Home English News South Koreans head to the polls to elect successor to Park

South Koreans head to the polls to elect successor to Park

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South Korean voters headed to the polls Tuesday to elect a successor to disgraced former president Park Geun Hye, who was forced to leave office in March over a corruption scandal.

Voting began at 6am (2100 GMT Monday) at 13,964 polling stations throughout the country, South Korean news agency Yonhap reported, citing the country’s National Election Commission (NEC).

Surveys taken prior to election day showed former human rights lawyer Moon Jae In, who lost to Park in the 2012 election, with the best chance of becoming South Korea’s president for the next five years.

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Moon voted at a school in Seoul, together with his wife, on Tuesday morning.

The Asian country, famed for its technological exports, faces growing youth unemployment, high rates of household debt and fear of poverty among the elderly.

The winner of Tuesday’s vote will also be expected to deal with escalating tensions with neighbouring North Korea, after US President Donald Trump threatened to take unilateral action against the country for recent ballistic missile and nuclear tests.

The 64-year-old centre-left candidate, Moon, advocates closer ties with North Korea’s communist government, but has also stressed the importance of the US alliance.

Moon’s main competitors are Ahn Cheol Soo, a 55-year-old former software developer who formed Korea’s now third-largest political party, the People’s Party; and conservative former prosecutor Hong Jun Pyo, whose views on foreign and security policy are most similar to Park’s.

A high turnout is expected after more than 11 million of the country’s 42.5 million registered voters took part in early voting last week, according to South Korea’s Chosun Ilbo newspaper.

Polls close at 8pm (1100 GMT) Tuesday, instead of 6pm as per previous elections. Local media said preliminary results are expected early Wednesday morning.

The president-elect will be inaugurated on Wednesday, Kyodo said, immediately after an official declaration of his or her victory by the NEC in a meeting planned for the morning.

-dpa